Ken Toltz
Israel-based writer

Mission of Song & Healing

Franciska Goldschmidt Kosman in Jerusalem Feb. 2024 (used w/ permission)

Like many Israelis, especially Olim with friends and family abroad, I’ve been deeply touched by those whose response to the horrific tragic attacks of October 7th and ensuing war against Hamas has been to jump on a plane to Israel. They feel the need to be here, see us, witness our pain, and like a long-term condolence call, look us in the eye, offer a warm hug and tell us they are with us. Presence is the ultimate act of solidarity and is deeply appreciated.

One such recent visitor merited my attention for special recognition on several levels, Franciska Goldschmidt Kosman who hails from the Philadephia suburbs by way of Moscow. Franciska or Freydie as her close friends and family know her, came to Israel as Orthodox Jew, wife and mother of 3 young daughters, artist, songwriter, singer, performer and in her spare time a podcaster extraordinaire both to put on a concert of original songs, also to volunteer and witness scenes of October 7th horror with a small group led by Rabbi Avraham and Adina Shmidman of her Lower Merion, PA Orthodox synagogue.

When asked in a recent conversation about her attachment to Israel and intentions of her February visit Freydie spoke of her love of “the land of Israel”, established over annual childhood visits to Jerusalem family members followed by a year studying at Jerusalem’s notable Michlalah Seminary at the age of 16. Her Jewish education follows a deep family tradition. Freydie’s father is Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, former chief rabbi of Moscow for two decades and president of the Conference of European Rabbis. Along with his wife Rabbanit Dara Goldschmidt, notably fled Moscow at the outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the safety of Jerusalem, which was widely covered in Jewish and Israeli media.

The devastating emotions brought to the surface by the October 7th attacks and subsequent high-profile antisemitic American demonstrations kept Freydie in a state of pain, perhaps despair but mostly in accord with pain of Israelis still so close to the surface. She spent much time researching and reading news stories of the horrendous atrocities and dislocation of thousands of Israelis who were forced to evacuate their homes both around Gaza and in along Israel’s nothern border with Lebanon.

As artists do, Freydie channeled her pain and empathy into her songwriting compiling a body of work which she performed twice. Once for her local Pennsylvania orthodox community and again for an invited audience last month in Jerusalem, in both cases made up exclusively of orthodox women.

By inviting only women, Freydie honored the Orthodox Jewish strictures of modesty which restrict Jewish men from listening to live performances of songs performed by Jewish women, except for their wives. She also addresses this topic with other Orthodox Jewish women singer/performers on her podcast under the topic of Kol Isha (women’s voice).

The idea of performing a concert in Jerusalem was both encouraged and assisted by Freydie’s mother Rabbanit Dara Goldschmidt who told me in a recent conversation that the event was “really quite beautiful”.

The concert performance was described by Rabbanit Goldschmidt as “very emotional.”

“I was thrilled she was performing because she hasn’t performed in a long time, I know it’s an important part of who she is, sharing her music and her gift.”

“Maybe my support of the idea helped tip the scales in that she had the desire to do it,” Rabbanit Goldschmidt explained, “Freydie was coming on a mission of solidarity and she wanted to thread her songs together to make them a meaningful story of the message she came here to deliver.”

“She’s not a soldier and she’s not a soldier’s wife, but Jews living in Philadelphia have also gone through something traumatic, Freydie’s a very deep emotional person, she took alot of it to heart, processing trauma from there.”

“So she wanted to share the perspective of someone living very far away, and how it woke her up to think about issues of what it means to be a Jew in America today.”

In addition to the concert Freydie Goldschmidt Kosman accompanied her synagogue delegation on a mission of volunteerism and witnessing as well. Asked for a description of the most impactful experience, Kosman cited a briefing on the first day from a young female officer of the Nahal Oz Surveillance post who described losing more than 40 friends on October 7th as Hamas surprised the unprepared Army post with heavily armed terrorist invasion intent on murdering, maiming and abducting the largely female surveillance soldiers. Kosman noted the remarkable strength and commitment of the soldier to tell her story to honor the memory of her fallen team members and commitment to go back to IDF service helping to rescue those held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, still today more than 150 days later.

Freydie Goldschmidt Kosman w/ IDF tank crew (used w/ permission)

The Lower Merion Orthodox Synagogue delegation also had an impactful visit to the Tel Hashomer rehabilitation center for wounded soldiers where they heard stories of heroism and trauma of leaving day-to-day life to return to active military service for the protection of Israel.

Upon her return to her U.S. home Freydie Goldschmidt Kosman has continued to share the stories of her experiences in Israel while integrating them into her life as an American Jew holding compassion and strength for her fellow Jews in Israel.

As an Israeli (Oleh from America) I honor our visitors from abroad and thank them for the actions of support and compassion helping Israel in our darkest hour. Their commitment is a blessing that will be remembered.


About the Author
Ken Toltz began his professional career at AIPAC in Washington, D.C. after attending Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He's a 3rd generation Colorado native, businessman and long-time gun violence prevention activist. After 42 years from his first visit to Israel, in 2019 he relocated his home to Mitzpe Ramon in Israel's Negev. Ken currently resides in Herzliya. He writes about Israeli politics, relations with the U.S. and the Israeli creative class of writers and filmmakers.